Courtney A. Kemp has managed to turn one hit show into five, dominating Starz’ ratings and lineup with multiple Power spinoffs. As she gears up to release the second season of Power Book II: Ghost, the sequel series that follows Tariq St. Patrick’s journey through college after killing his father, we caught up with Kemp to talk about what it takes to create a fan-favorite franchise.
While she is a boundary-breaker and innovator in her field, occupying a space that wasn’t even possible for Black women in the not-so-distant past, Kemp recognizes that she is not the first Black woman in her position. She is sure to credit the Black women in production and screenwriting that came along before her that were not quite as well-known to the public – women like Gina Prince-Bythewood, Felicia D. Henderson, and Debra Martin Chase to name a few.
“There have been Black women forging a way and pushing, we just haven’t always been visible,” she said. “I happened to arrive at a time when the showrunner was being pushed out front.”
“I was very loud about my Blackness,” she continued. “I always wore that very much out front, in part because it helps me kind of make a shield for younger people behind me. Maybe they don’t have to say some of the things I had to say, and fights some of the fights I had to fight.”
That fight has seen her insanely successful crime drama series Power branch off into four additional spinoffs, each seemingly more successful with fans than the last. When asked if she had a vision for a television cinematic universe like the one she has built at Starz when she was writing her show’s pilot, Kemp revealed this was definitely not something she anticipated.
“I was really just trying to write a good show, one script at a time. Then it hit, people enjoyed it, and I was fortunate,” she says of her shows’ staying power. “I often say, I’m not in the results business, so I could never have imagined this, but I feel very grateful.”
When it comes to season 2 of Power Book II: Ghost, Kemp is happy to have the chance to expand and explore some of the show’s female characters. She’s most excited for fans to see how several of the women characters interact, particularly Mary J. Blige’s tough-as-nails matriarch Monét Tejado, and her daughter Diana, played by LaToya Tonodeo.
“[I‘m excited for] some of the interactions between the women this season, especially the interactions between Monét and Diana. Diana comes into much more of her own and we get to understand a lot more of who she is. Toya Tonodeo is a great actress and it’s really fun to give Diana a point of view this year. It’s not just about how much she likes Tariq – although she does like Tariq.”
Kemp reveals that she’s able to create so many separate engaging series based on one original property because she keeps sight of what’s at the core of it all. She references one central question that needs to be answered as the manner in which her ideas grow legs and run off into other characters, plotlines, and scenarios.
“I feel a lot of people think that they can come up with a TV show – and maybe they can – but they haven’t actually asked themselves a universal question,” she said. “So for me, the universal question of original Power was ‘does my past dictate my future?’ In other words, of all of the decisions that Ghost has made, does that mean that he can’t become legit?”
“In the Ghost series, Tariq’s question is ‘are the sins of the father always visited upon the son?’ In other words, can he make a different choice, or is it inevitable that he will become Ghost, even though he hates him?” Kemp asks. “And the reasons he hates him, are those the right reasons to hate his father, or could he come to an understanding? I think there’s something really beautiful about going to that universal question, then trying to expand on that question because each one leads to the next.”
Kemp will continue to tackle these questions and more when Power Book II: Ghost premieres Sunday, November 21 on Starz.